University of Sydney Handbooks - 2016 Archive

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The School of Physics is part of the Faculty of Science. Units of study in this major are available at standard and advanced level.

Program structure and content

Physics is the basis of most of the sciences. Many techniques developed by physicists are used in all the sciences, eg, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, radio-carbon dating, medical resonance imaging, nuclear medicine, atomic absorption spectroscopy and electron microscopy.

Physics is a generalist major that, instead of preparing you for a narrow career path in just one area, allows you great freedom of choice in your ultimate employment. This may appeal to students who have not yet committed themselves to one career choice. Skills acquired during a physics major, such as problem solving, information handling, critical reasoning, logical thought, clear communication, and use of computers as an analysis tool are much in demand in many fields of employment. You may end up as a professional physicist, but equally these skills fit you for a job in medicine, communications, manufacturing, teaching, journalism, public service, management, finance, and many more.

First year:
Completion of one unit of study in each semester provides a solid foundation for further studies in physics in higher years.

Second year:
Either of the first semester units PHYS2011/2911, together with either of the second semester units PHYS2012/2912 is sufficient to qualify for admission to senior physics. If you are intending to major in physics, we strongly recommend you take PHYS2013/2913 as well.

Third year:
Senior units of study are a combination of lecture modules with lab or a special project. Core lecture modules are electromagnetism and quantum mechanics and statistic mechanics. Electives include nanoscience, plasma physics, condensed matter physics, astrophysics, optics and high energy physics.

First year planning for a Physics major

Essential: 12 credit points of Junior Physics are needed to enrol in Intermediate units of study in Physics.

Recommended: 12 credit points of Junior units of study in each of Physics and Mathematics (MATH1001/1901/1906, MATH1002/1902, MATH1003/1903/1907, MATH1004 and MATH1005/1905) and 24 credit points of other Junior units of study selected in consultation with an adviser.

Note: Students interested in Astronomy may enrol in PHYS1500. However, it should be noted that it is a general interest course and cannot be counted towards progression into Intermediate Physics.

Requirements for a major

For a major in Physics, the minimum requirement is 24 credit points from the senior units of study listed in this subject area in Table 1 comprising:
(i) one Semester 1 Core Unit (PHYS3040/3940/3941); and
(ii) one Semester 2 Core Unit (PHYS3090/3990/3991); and
(iii) 12 credit points of other non-overlapping senior Physics units from Table 1.


To obtain Honours in Physics it is necessary to complete a fourth undergraduate year which is devoted to the study of Physics. Students may also undertake Honours part time over two years (in which case the research project must be completed in two consecutive semesters), and/or start mid year.

Contact and further information

Physics Student Services

T +61 2 9351 3037